I am almost finished with Direct Action—the newest version of the kind of game I have worked on and played since Covert Forces in 2005—and hope to have it available early in May 2022. As much as I enjoy writing about elite military units, I am not blind to the real-world problems and issues with these units.
As military units and tools of national policy for rich nations, elite military units and the operators that staff them have been used in unjust ways, undermining the rule of law and the right to self-determination for many people. They have not and generally are not particularly well-integrated. Their reputation draws to them individuals keen to showcase their physical capabilities and those whose patriotism may lean more to jingoism. Though their initial imagining was as a precise kinetic tool comprised of philosopher-warriors, many have become blunt hammers comprised of shooters. Further, their representation in modern media generally reinforces negative stereotypes of the ethnic and cultural makeup of terrorists and criminals. No matter the truth about the current profile of those who threaten democracy and rule of law, it is always easier to point to the brown and black ‘other.’
To top this all off, during the period that I was working on this, questions regarding adherence to the laws of armed combat surfaced for elite units in Australia, Canada, and the United States. It delayed completion multiple times as I set the game aside.
There are definite problems with these units.
But it is also true that many are drawn to these units because they believe in the rule of law, the right to self-determination, and the requirement for the strong to protect and nurture the weak. Historically, Western society has always lionized bands of elite warriors, no matter the actual truth behind them.
Developing a role-playing game for elite military operators carries many of the same risks as developing games based on the Vikings or Roman legionaries—like Kiss My Axe and Centurion: Legionaries of Rome. Those historical groups did not, in actual history, display the heroism their legends might suggest, and were brutal, violent groups that oppressed those they could safely dominate. However, I would argue that it is possible to play games based on heroism using the tropes of those historical legends, which is why I designed those games.
Understanding that special operations forces can be problematic—as can any military force—this game is intended to allow participants to play heroic characters that have reached the pinnacle of their chosen profession and use their abilities and resources in an attempt to improve the world. That they fail or that they are disillusioned can be included in their stories. The shortcomings of the units need not be ignored, but there is an attraction to ambitious, competent, and driven figures, and that is a good description of most of special warfare operators.
On a personal note, I enjoy playing video games like Ghost Recon and Call of Duty. I have every issue of the comic the Activity. I watched the Unit during its broadcast and have watched both the Six and SEAL Team. I have seen both Acts of Valour and 13 Hours more than once. I am also a middle-aged white guy who has never served but whose career has brought him into contact with various special operations and special operations capable forces. I’ve written a lot of RPG content focused on elite military units. I also believe that black lives matter, that trans rights are human rights, that racism is hard-coded into the structures of most institutions, and that indigenous peoples’ rights and claims must be respected. I am a socialist who believes in strong national security policies and a robust, effective military under complete civilian control.
I want to believe that one can portray heroic characters who have undergone the most rigorous training available in the modern military and now seek to pursue just causes and fight the good fight. That is why I wrote Direct Action and why I think there are those out there interested in playing it.
Some of you may have noticed that SEP has released a few Sword’s Edge adventures recently, as well as updating two Sword Noiradventures to 2E. I’ve just finished the first draft of a third and original Sword Noir adventure that I hope to have out soon.
Betrayal is part of the game.
The client claims to be a mythical figure of legend, exiled from his body, inhabiting that of another until he can regain his sanctum sanctorum. Whether you believe him or not, he’s got gold and he seems ready to spend it. You know it means trouble, insinuating yourself into the world of the guilds and their wealthy members, but trouble is always part of the bargain. And the client’s story is only the tip of a very cold and very dark iceberg.
Hopefully that gets you in the mood and gets you excited. Another Sword Noir adventure is in the works, though I have done nothing other than write down some conceptual notes. I intend to get that to you as quickly as I can.
I’m sure I’ve made the joke before, but what the heck.
If you have been here in the last few years, you will have noticed something different: nothing directing you to a Patreon. That’s an experiment that has come to a close. I have to admit that having started SEP in 2004, I still haven’t figured out marketing. Unlike Kickstarters, where drive-by traffic can fuel some (for me, it’s most) of the support, Patreon relies on the subject’s ability to pull in people.
Never been really good with that.
For a while, the Patreon proved useful just to push me to create RPG material. The larger one’s catalogue, the more revenue one can expect from Drive-Thru RPG (much like Patreon, itch.io—at least for me—is very dependent on the author/publisher’s ability to draw in customers). So in the end, the Patreon will likely have a longer reach than the revenue which came directly from it.
The sad truth is that, many modern societies and cultures measure a product’s value and impact in revenue. Back in university, I took a course on the social psychology of sport, and in a component about contracts we looked at studies suggesting large contracts are pursued more as a signal of the management’s regard for the athlete than for the money itself. I imagine it’s the same in entertainment as a whole.
All that to say, I’m not immune to this, so I’m afraid I continue to looks at sales and people’s willingness to spend money on me as a measure of my value—at least as an author and RPG designer.
I think I have one or two ‘for pay’ projects I might pursue, but if I write any more adventures, I think I might release them as ‘pay what you will,’ knowing the general perception will be that these are lesser products than those with a fixed price.
A quick rundown of Nefertiti Overdrive from the owner of Composed Dream Games who is also a friend. I think he’s pretty fair in how he presents it, so it’s a good preview if someone is interested in it.
I intend to donate SEP’s revenue from November to Feed Nova Scotia. That’s not going to be too much. It’d be nice if everyone did what they could for Feed Nova Scotia, so of if you donate, let me know and I can send you any of my games that might interest you just as a little thank you.
Also, if 2020 has hit you hard, please let me know and I would be happy to send along whatever might help distract you for even a moment. Just email me or DM and let me know what I can do to help.
While there may be hope on the horizon, it has been a really shitty year. I hope I can help in some small way to make it suck a little bit less for some people.
Ten years ago, the world ended. Today you’ve been chosen to bring it back.
A resistance to the alien overlords who govern the Earth is forming. Small, ill-equipped, and de-centralized, it had been in hiding, staying out of the regime’s gaze. It needs capable leaders, people who have the skills and audacity to take the fight to the regime.
That’s why they’ve tipped their hand, revealing themselves to the regime.
That’s why they busted you out of prison.
On the run, out of options, and marked for death, your characters are part of the resistance seeking to topple the proxies of the aliens who now rule the planet. You have nothing but your wits and out-dated weaponry. You face a technologically advanced force that vastly outnumbers you.
The only way you will survive is if you adapt, resist, and finally overcome.
Welcome to Resistance: EARTH.
Resistance: EARTH is an adaptation of Modern and Fifth Edition, blending the robust customization and granular options of OGL and Fifth Edition with the character-centric, narrative-focused style of story games.
Sword Noir Second Edition is a clarification, update, and tightening of the existing rules rather than a wholesale change. If you own the original Sword Noir and it works great for you, you likely don’t need this version. If you own the current Sword’s Edge, you will see that Sword Noir 2E is very similar—Sword’s Edge was derived from Sword Noir, and with Sword’s Edge having had its update, I wanted to update Sword Noir to bring it back in line with the basic Sword’s Edge rules.
TL,DR: I support the protest of police violence against the Black community and demand police reform. Due to current circumstances, I am unwilling to release a game of military action, and will re-purpose it as a SF-action game of resistance against alien overlords in a near future Earth.
If you disagree that systemic racism is an issue in the US, Canada, and pretty much around the globe, and that we—as the privileged—need to support the Black community, please don’t support me. You don’t want to give me your money as it will be going to support the Black community and police reform.
Okay, the details:
I hope everyone is well and safe. These are truly trying times, and while Canadian streets are not seeing the same kind of protest as many US streets are, we are not insensate to what is happening. Change must occur in Canada as much as the US—I honestly don’t know a country in which racial equality is not a problem.
And if you disagree with that, you would probably be happier not following me and not supporting my work, because I feel very strongly about this. I have been supporting food banks the last couple of months, but I will be supporting causes that have come to the fore in this crisis, causes that are supported by the Black community and especially Black creators and members of the tabletop RPG community.
Having said all that, the militarization revealed in the police force, the use of National Guard troops, and the threat of using US service personnel to police US streets has made me feel very queasy about working on and publishing a game about the military right now. Much like WARMONGER changed because of the COVID-19 virus, I feel Direct Action must change due to current circumstances.
The game will remain the same, I’ve been running two concurrent alpha playtests and the rules are getting close to a viable form. There are much less changes than initially planned, mostly because d20 and 5E were pretty solid platforms to begin with.
So, instead of Direct Action, I’ll be releasing Resistance: EARTH. Themes resonant with the current crisis is appreciated but unplanned. I had playtesters who were not at all interested in playtesting modern SOF, so Resistance: EARTH became a setting we could playtest the rules in.
Resistance: EARTH is kind of a post-apocalyptic action-adventure RPG. You play part of a resistance against alien overlords 10 years after an invasion. A primer is available at my Patreon which provides some insight into what I am proposing.
Thank you as always for your support. Please feel free to cancel that support. You won’t be missed.
It’s 272 of the Common Era, and the Emperor Aurelian has defeated King Cannabas and his Goths, but has abandoned Dacia. Now he marches on Palmyra. As his force crosses Anatolia, Aurelian calls his trsuted retainers to him, and assigns to them a secret mission: contacting an imperial agent in Ankyra, an agent who may have access to Queen Zenobia herself.
Deep in enemy territory, the retainers learn that the agent has disappeared. Captured, killed, hiding—the retainers don’t know. All they know is that the clock is counting down, their emperor is relying on them, and the forces of the Palmyrene Empire may be hunting them.
Because facing down a Gothic Army wasn’t exciting enough.
Dark Roads: A Centurion Adventure is a possible project slated for a vote on my Patreon.